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Historic building conservation training for local artisans

Under the auspices of The Royal Government of Bhutan and the Bumthang
dzongkhag, an agreement to establish a project aimed at the training of
Bhutanese artisans in the techniques of conservation of historic structures
was signed in Thimphu today.Funded by the American Himalayan Foundation (AHF), an international
non-government organization, the project will provide training to Bhutanese
craftsmen, engineers and architects.

Directed by world-renowned conservation architect, Mr. John Sanday, a team
of international experts will work with the trainees to develop appropriate
techniques for the conservation of Buli lhakhang in Bumthang. Mr. Sanday is
also currently involved in the protection of ancient Buddhist monasteries in
upper Mustang, Nepal and in the world heritage site of Angkor Wat in
Cambodia.

“The preservation of Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage is recognized by the
American Himalayan Foundation to be of high priority,” said AHF Director,
Mr. Stan Armington.

“The project grew out of the concern expressed by many Bhutanese that
ancient murals were being over painted and the condition of historic
buildings was often overlooked because local craftsmen were not familiar
with modern techniques of repair and restoration.”

Mr. Armington added, “We will use the knowledge the AHF gained during the restoration of
Thubchen goemba in Mustang to teach masons, carpenters, painters and
district engineers how to conserve historic structures with a minimum of
visible intervention.”

“We will also use the lessons learned during the
conservation of wall paintings in Dechenphug lhakhang to teach Bhutanese
painters how to evaluate, repair and clean important paintings.”

He explained that it was important to know that the project was one of training, not of
renovation.

“However, we will use selected lhakhangs as classrooms for this
program and in the process of teaching the lhakhang will also be restored.”

The first structure that has been selected is Buli lhakhang near Gyetsa in
Bumthang’s Chhume valley.

The AHF has committed over Nu 8 million to the project over the next three
years.

The foundation provides vital education, health care and cultural and
environmental preservation throughout the Himalayan region and this is the
first agreement that it has signed with the royal government of Bhutan.

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